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'There's a lot to Russ': Seattle radio host prepares Steelers fans for the full 'Russell Wilson experience'

With Mark Madden on vacation, we didn’t have a “Madden Monday” podcast this week. But we certainly did have an intriguing conversation about new Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson.

With Mark Madden on vacation, we didn’t have a “Madden Monday” podcast this week. But we certainly did have an intriguing conversation about new Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson.

Ian Furness of KJR Radio and Fox-13 in Seattle joined us at “Breakfast With Benz” for Monday’s podcast. He covered Wilson for all 10 of his years in Seattle, prior to Wilson’s ill-fated, two-year stint in Denver from 2022-23.

“I just want to welcome you to the Russell Wilson experience,” Furness said.

It sure sounds like there is a great deal that goes into that “experience.”

“There’s a lot to Russ,” Furness said, stating that after Wilson’s positive start in Seattle, things began to deteriorate over time — particularly after he became more prominent following his marriage to pop star Ciara.

“A lot of things started to change when that happened,” Furness continued. “He kind of became a ‘Look at me guy.’ We used to joke out here, it used to be their saying, ‘Why not us?’ Then it became ‘Look at me,’ for Russ. He just changed, and he became a problem inside the facility, with the front office and with the staff. It just snowballed from there before they traded him.”

Furness mentioned those issues emerged in a couple of contentious contract negotiations, collaborating with his own private quarterback coach (Jake Heaps) and a reported attempt to get coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider fired — a charge Wilson has denied.

“He tried to kind of take over the organization as a player, and you saw what happened in Denver,” Furness said. “The first year, he had his own office. (Heaps) had that office every day. It kind of came to light, and everyone lost their mind. They tried to downplay it, but that’s how he operated. He operated on his own agenda. And it was about Russ. In the ultimate team sport, it was all about Russ — to the point the ‘diva quarterback’ moniker was placed on him. And for good reason.”

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As far as on the field goes, Furness gushed about Wilson’s competitiveness, his ability to win in Seattle (even though he was 11-19 in Denver), and his sustained arm strength. Furness also pointed out that some of Wilson’s failures in Denver might be on the coaching staffs of Sean Payton and Nathaniel Hackett.

But Furness did express concerns that Wilson’s signature mobility that helped him accumulate nine Pro Bowls, two Super Bowl berths and one ring may be diminishing.

“Does he still have the twitch?” Furness wondered. “Does he still have the speed and the quickness? He’s not a 4.3 guy. But does he still have that ability to maneuver around the pocket to make guys miss? Run for a first down if need be? That nimbleness and the athleticism that he had early in his career.”

The fact that Wilson has absorbed 100 sacks over the last two years would suggest not. But that may be more about Wilson’s lack of ability to observe and utilize the center of the field than it is about a decline of his physical abilities.

Additionally, there has been an excessive dependence on short, secure passes from Wilson since he departed Seattle.

Despite Furness' statement, those issues existed during Wilson's time with the Seahawks.

“There has always been a 'Checkdown Charlie' aspect, which is strange considering his strong arm. He excels at throwing deep balls,” Furness stated. “But sometimes he prioritizes boosting his stats, quarterback rating, and completion percentage. He chooses the easy throw. The lack of throws down the middle is a reality that has always been the case. They traded for tight end Jimmy Graham, but couldn't utilize him effectively. They had talented tight ends like Zach Miller and Luke Wilson during the Super Bowl years, but rarely targeted them down the seam unless Wilson was rolling out. Due to his height of 5-foot-11, when he drops back in the pocket, he's unable to spot open receivers.”

If Steelers fans find these characteristics all too familiar over the past five years of quarterback play, take a look at this description of Wilson when he's under pressure.

“He performs the Russell Wilson spin where he spins and moves backward,” Furness explained. “Even if the left tackle has his man under control, Russ spins around with his back to him and ends up getting sacked. Then he gets upset and says, 'I hate getting hit all the time.' Well, that was your doing. There's something called 'stepping up in the pocket.' Unfortunately, it's not a strong suit for him at all. It's just not. Part of it is due to his lack of height. He got away with it early in his career, but even then, he would get sacked because he holds onto the ball longer than average.”

Wow, a quarterback experiences pressure and spins into even more traffic. Where have we seen that before?

As I've consistently stated since Wilson was signed, I believe he will be an upgrade from recent quarterback performances in Pittsburgh by players like Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky. However, I need substantial convincing before I consider Wilson to still be a truly great quarterback and not just a good bargain.

Moreover, in the podcast, Furness and I examine the possibility of a hypothetical quarterback competition between Wilson and Justin Fields, how Mike Tomlin might handle the off-field challenges of coaching Wilson, and how Wilson will (or won't) connect with Pittsburgh fans.

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